Key Messages on the Emissions Gap, Visualized

UN Environment Programme
3 min readJan 5, 2021

The annual UNEP Emissions Gap Report provides science-based assessments of the gap between where greenhouse emissions are predicted to be in 2030 and where they should be to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. These visuals that share key messages from the latest edition, released in December 2020, bring to life the climate challenges we face and the opportunities they present.

As a result of reduced travel, lower industrial activity and lower electricity generation this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 carbon dioxide emissions are predicted to fall. Despite this dip, the world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century.

Hope lies in a green pandemic recovery, which could cut up to 25 per cent off predicted 2030 greenhouse gas emissions and bring the world closer to meeting the 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The report offers a number of policy recommendations that governments can action to build back greener.

Each year, the report looks at the climate action potential of specific sectors, with consumer behaviour one of the areas of focus in 2020. Around two-thirds of global emissions are linked to private households.

As we seek to reduce lifestyle emissions, the wealthy bear the greatest responsibility. The emissions of the richest one per cent of the global population account for more than twice the combined share of the poorest 50 per cent. This group will need to reduce its footprint by a factor of 30 to stay in line with the Paris Agreement targets.

Reducing emissions through lifestyle changes requires changing both broader systemic conditions and individual actions. Governments can catalyze consumer behaviour that benefits the planet, from bicycle lanes to promoting green energy adoption.

The report also examined emissions from shipping and aviation. In both sectors, current policy frameworks to address emissions are weak - additional policies are required to drive changes in technology, operations, fuel use and demand.

The state of the climate may be daunting, but there is still time to make a difference. And the technology and policy solutions are at hand. What we need is ambition and action from all.

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Want to learn more about the emissions gap and climate action? Take a deep dive in our Emissions Gap Interactive or explore the Six Sector Solution to Climate Change.

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UN Environment Programme

Official Medium account of the United Nations Environment Programme.